A WHISTELBLOWING finance director has told MPs that NHS accountants are being placed under increasing pressure to “cook the books” in a bid to hide the depth of shortfalls.
Giving evidence anonymously, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee was told by the finance director of a district general hospital that regulators are “pressurising NHS providers to potentially mislead the public and government departments over their true, underlying financial performance”.
The National Audit Office is expecting the NHS hospital sector to groan under the weight of its controlled deficit by around £2.2bn. But the mystery FD says the true English total could crash through the £2.9bn barrier.
The Independent reports how the whistleblower highlighted the example of an NHS executive from Essex who was jailed for a year for forgery.
Mid Essex Health Trust FD Philip Neal used what prosecutors dubbed creative accounting to eradicate a sizeable deficit whereby he used the sale of property and assets to amplify the profits. He was duly sacked.
The forgery happened when redundant hospital sites were sold off. The under-pressure FD created the illusion that the trust’s £10m debt had been magically transformed into £1m surplus and duly took the credit for the forgery.
Health department chiefs have told NHS trusts that they must completely wipe out their deficits by the end of the next financial year or forgo the right to sharing a £1.8bn pot of additional cash.
Fears have now multiplied that patient safety and quality of care may suffer as trusts desperately try to slash costs.